The Best of Ted Lewis is a retrospective double album containing 20 Decca recordings from 1938-1950. Lewis had a vaudeville sense of showmanship that manifested itself in his crumpled top hat, corny catch phrases, and talk-singing style that was clearly not intended to be taken too seriously. His shtick made him one of the most popular recording artists of the 1920s and '30s, but the 100 hits he racked up during that period were released on the Columbia label and are not included here. Lewis' move to Decca coincided with his commercial decline, and he enjoyed only two hits thereafter, one of which was a remake of his 1920 theme song "When My Baby Smiles at Me." His only other Decca hit, "Pop! Goes Your Heart" from 1934, is not included. The late-'30s cuts are similar to his earlier, more famous recordings, but the sides from 1949-1950 are pop ballads performed in a sweet style in which the only vestige of Lewis' earlier sound is his idiosyncratic singing. The pairing is unsuccessful and sometimes distracting, particularly on Lewis' unintentionally self-parodic interpretation of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." The Best of Ted Lewis offers a good but incomplete look at the waning years of his career, but the omission of his biggest Decca hit is a significant flaw.
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